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My Garden Diary

July and August 2015

Copyright © 2015 by David E. Ross

Many years ago, when I first started my Web site, I created an online diary of my gardening activities and observations. However, with work and the commute from Hell, I was often so tired I had to choose between maintaining my garden and maintaining my diary. Sometimes, I did neither. In 1998, I stopped my diary and removed the pages from my Web site.

Now I am retired. I am well-rested and have plenty of time to both garden and maintain a diary. This diary is primarily for my own benefit, so that I can look back upon what I did and when. But I thought others might also be interested, so here it is.

Also see What's Blooming in My Garden Now?


Diary entries for 2004 through 2012

January-February 2013
March-April 2013
May-June 2013
July-August 2013
September-October 2013
November-December 2013
January-February 2014
March-April 2014
May-June 2014
July-August 2014
September-October 2014
November-December 2014
January-February 2015
March-April 2015
May-June 2015

Entries below are in reverse order (latest at the top). Daily, I might stoop to pull a weed or use a hose to water some potted plants; however, I don't consider those significant gardening activities. Thus, you will not see daily entries. Also, I might accumulate a few entries before updating this page on the Web.

When plants have well-known common names, their scientific names are given only the first time they appear on this page (entry closest to the bottom). There, the common name is in bold or appears as a link to another Web page.

Dates refer to other entries in the same year as the entry in which they appear unless a different year is given. However, they may refer to entries on prior pages.

Date and Weather Observations and Activities
16 August

Clear, sunny, and VERY HOT

Temp: 79-104
Humidity: 9%
Wind: 3-18

Rain —
This season: 10.04
Days since last: 27

Because of the extreme heat and exceptionally low humidity, I hand watered all the the flowerpots outside. I do not usually water the potted herbs between the teardrop and circular bed since they are within the range of my garden sprinklers, but the herbs were quite wilted. I am concerned that I might have been too late to revive the peppermint (Mentha piperita) and oregano (Origanum vulgare).

The bromeliad in my dining room — possibly a Guzmania camera icon — has been blooming for several weeks. Recently, it produced two new side shoots. The existing plant has become top-heavy, and its base is quite unattractive. Today, I broke off one of the new shoots and am trying to root it. If successful, I will trash the parent when its bloom finally dies and replace it with the rooted shoot.

12 August

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 63-92
Humidity: 22%
Wind: 0-18

Rain —
This season: 10.04
Days since last: 23

The pothos cuttings have good root development. I trashed their parent plants and potted the rooted cuttings with fresh potting mix.

On the other hand, the pineapple top that I put up for rooting several months ago still has no significant root development. I applied more powdered rooting hormone.

Applied another half-dose of systemic insecticide drench to the dwarf tangelo (9 Aug).

The parkway revisions are done (9 Aug). It looks good. For those who find walking on loose gravel daunting, there are three large stepping stones. The sprinklers were disconnected. Irrigation now involves two vertical plastic pipes to conduct water from drip lines down to the roots of the zelkova tree and a drip line to the ivy on the mailbox; I hope this means much less water for irrigation.

While finishing the parkway today, the landscape contractor also dropped off two bush anemones (Carpenteria californica), which will be planted near the top of My Hill to replace the rockroses (Cistus purpureus) that died. These are in 1-gallon cans; because of the geogrid embedded in the slope to stabilize it, it is very difficult to plant anything larger. I will have to keep the plants in their nursery cans until October; that is the prime planting month in southern California because the air has cooled while the soil remains warm from summer, reducing water stress on the foliage while promoting root growth.

9 August

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 58-84
Humidity: 76%
Wind: 4-15

Rain —
This season: 10.04
Days since last: 20

Work started last week on revising my parkway (sometimes called the parking strip or verge, between the public sidewalk and the street curb). Other than the Japanese zelkova tree and the dwarf English ivy on the mailbox, all vegetation was removed along with enough soil to bring the level about 2 inches below the sidewalk and curb. Vertical irrigation pipes were placed on both sides of the tree with water lines tapped into the sprinkler system, which was otherwise removed. (Additional irrigation will have to be provided for the ivy.) Landscape cloth was laid down. In a day or two, coarse gravel will be placed over the landscape cloth; and a third 24-inch stepping stone will be placed.

Because I pruned the loquat tree (1 Jul), new shoots are sprouting all over its branches. I broke away most of them, keeping only those that would produce good growth next year.

Tied down some new canes of the climbing 'Peace' rose and removed others.

Restored the small fence around the hollyhocks (Alcea rosea). I suspect Cleopatra broke down the ends since she seems to like the taste of hollyhock leaves. I also placed some poison snail bait inside the fence, another reason to keep Cleo away; she also likes to eat dead snails, which if poisoned will be very bad for her.

The dwarf Mineola tangelo is infested with leaf miners. I used a systemic drench, but I only had enough concentrate for a half dose. I will give it another half dose later this week after I buy more concentrate.

A local plumbing supply store cannibalized a washer from a new sprinkler valve for me to repair one of the valves for irrigating My Hill. The washer — costing me only 50¢ — fits perfectly. Now the valve no longer leaks and no longer wastes water.

29 July

Clear, sunny, and warm

Temp: 64-93
Humidity: 33%
Wind: 0-13

Rain —
This season: 10.04
Days since last: 9

Fed the dwarf citrus with commercial citrus fertilizer plus two pinches of zinc sulfate. The dwarf 'Mineola' tangelo (Citrus reticulata × paradisi) repeated its blooming, this time in summer (quite out of season). It seems to have a few baby fruits, which I hope will remain and mature. The dwarf kumquat (Fortunella margarita 'Nagami') has been dropping many leaves. When I checked it, I found it was badly infested with leaf miners; so I used a systemic insecticide drench on it. None of the other citrus appear infested. While feeding the citrus, I also lightly trimmed them to withstand the reduced irrigation demanded by our drought; but I did not have to trim the kumquat because it was already losing foliage. After lightly watering the citrus to start dissolving the fertilizer, I renewed the poisonous snail bait around them.

The last time I fed the citrus, I skipped the gardenia. The foliage is beginning to look somewhat pale, so I gave it some of the citrus fertilizer and zinc sulfate.

The pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) has not been fruiting well for a few years. It has been growing in my garden for over 30 years. I replenished the phosphorus in the soil by using a steel rebar to poke holes 1-2 feet deep around the shrub and then filled the holes with superphosphate. I did the same for the adjacent crinum (C. bulbispermum × moorei 'Album'), which has not flowered for several years. Phosphorus promotes root growth, flowering, and fruiting. Working around the guava, I kept hitting my head on the same sharp stub of a branch (left during a prior year's pruning); I removed the parent branch, some broken branches, and some suckers, again reducing the foliage in order to cope with the drought.

22 July

Cloudy, mostly gray with some sun in the very late afternoon, warm

Temp: 64-76
Humidity: 75%
Wind: 0-9

Rain —
This season: 10.04
Week: 1.44
Days since last: 2

Rain!! For the first time in more than six years, rain fell in July, generally the driest month in southern California. In nearby Los Angeles, more rain fell in 24 hours than fell in the entire month of the previously wettest July more than a century ago. All this is from the remnant of tropical storm Dorothy, which fortunately dissapated before reaching Los Angeles. Of course, the rain started AFTER I ran the sprinklers on My Hill last Saturday; I did not follow-up with my usual second irrigation on Sunday. The weather is still very humid. The automatic sprinklers for the flat areas of my garden will remain off at least until next Monday.

I need a new washer for one of the manual sprinkler valves on My Hill, but no hardware store or even an irrigation specialty store has one. I can tighten the "bonnet" to compress the old washer, but there is a limit to how long that will suffice.

Ants have invaded my potted Alstroemeria. I put an "ant stake" in the pot. This has a small perforated can containing an attractive but poisonous bait

Trimmed the pink clover (Persicaria capitata) around the paved edges of the front lawn, except for the driveway. My wife's car was parked on the driveway, and I did not feel like moving it.

15 July

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 58-87
Humidity: 36%
Wind: 1-14

Rain —
This season: 8.60
Days since last: 32

This past Sunday, my neighbor up-hill, in back of my house had her gardener clear the volunteer trees — now more than mere seedlings — from the top of My Hill. Also removed was a very large pampas grass (Cortaderia solloana) clump. (I thought my neighbor planted it, and she thought I planted it. It was another volunteer.) The gardener also cut back the vines growing on her fence, which were beginning to strangle the shrubs I have growing there. Since the fence is actually one or two feet inside my neighbor's property line, much of this growth was her responsibility. She objected to how it blocked her view, which stretches all the way to the mountains well south of Oak Park. The county warned me that trees on My Hill could destabilize it and cause a third failure. Thus, I reimbursed my neighbor half of her cost of the task.

The potted Alstroemeria on one of the paths in back is not well. I cannot tell whether it is a lack of water, a lack of nutrients, snails, or the heat wave we had last month. I cannot do anything about the weather; but I gave it extra water, a little fertilizer, and some poisonous snail bait.

Trimmed the rest of the edge of the path along the rose bed, this time opposite the circular bed. I also trimmed the edge of the path along the lawn, again opposite the circular bed. I think I am done trimming the path edges since it was not long ago that I did it near the teardrop bed.

8 July

Cloudy, mostly gray, and mild

Temp: 58-71
Humidity: 76%
Wind: 4-16

Trimmed more of the edges of the paths in the back yard (5 Jul). This time, I did the entire area between the lawn and rose bed.

Rain —
This season: 8.60
Days since last: 25

5 July

Clear, sunny, and mild

Temp: 57-85
Humidity: 48%
Wind: 1-14

Rain —
This season: 8.60
Days since last: 24

Shut down two of the four sprinklers in my parkway in front. Except for the Japanese zelkova (Z. serrata) street tree and the dwarf English ivy (Hedera helix 'Hahn's') on my mailbox — both of which will continue to be irrigated — the rest of the parkway consists of struggling cinquefoil and weeds, on which I do not want to waste any more water.

I plan to have the area dug out, landscape cloth laid down, and coarse gravel place on top of the cloth. There is no point in irrigating plants and weeds that will be removed. The project will include replacing the sprinklers with two large-diameter (2-3 inches) perforated plastic pipes sunk 2-3 feet into the ground and equipped with bubblers tied to the sprinklers from the main lawn area. The landscape contractor advised me that just two such vertical irrigation systems should be sufficient for both the zelkova and ivy.

Started a new round of trimming the edges of the paths in back. Since it was not so long ago that I finished such a task, I was able to do the entire portion between the lawn and east bed in less time than it took me to do only half that portion earlier this year (29 Mar and 2 Apr).

3 July

Clear, sunny, and hot

Temp: 65-92
Humidity: 29%
Wind: 1-16

Rain —
This season: 8.60
Days since last: 22

Took cuttings of two different pothos plants (Epipremnum pinnatum): the all-green one in my breakfast room greenhouse window and the variegated one hanging in the blue bathroom upstairs.

The dwarf citrus are planted in very large flower pots with a mix that has excellent drainage. Nutrients tend to leach away quickly. thus, I have been feeding them every three weeks from March to early October. I am changing the schedule to once every four weeks to slow the growth and thus reduce their need for water. Today, I fed them with ammonium, iron, and zinc sulfates. While doing that, I also lightly trimmed the lemon and orange to reduce their demands for water. Unlike my usual practice, this time I did not feed the gardenia (G. jasminoides) since it is growing quite well; and added nutrients will promote even more growth, which would then require more water.

While I constantly think about the drought while I am gardening, I do not want to replace my garden with cactus and other succulents. And using native plants that are not succulents can create an unacceptable fire hazard.

1 July

Mostly cloudy, occasional hazy sun, and warm

Temp: 70-91
Humidity: 25%
Wind: 1-13

Rain —
This season: 8.60
Days since last: 20

Severely pruned the loquat tree (Eriobotrya japonica 'MacBeth'). With more than half the foliage removed, the tree will require far less water, thus making it more tolerant of the current drought.

Decided to stop feeding the roses this year. While they might not bloom as well, they will survive. Without added nutrients, the roses will produce less foliage; this too will reduce the demand for water.

I once read that chrysanthemums should be pinched back to make them bushy and produce more flowers. However, pinching should be done only before 4 July. Today, I did the last pinching on my spoon-flowered C. morifolium.

Earlier this week, I picked a peach from my semi-dwarf tree (Prunus persica 'Santa Barbara') and shared it with my wife at dinner. It was delicious. Today, I picked another to have with dinner. Also earlier this week, we had artichokes (Cynara scoymus) as our dinner vegetable; I have a clump of artichokes growing as an accent in my back lawn.

Weather data are from the Cheeseboro (CHE) weather station, about 2 miles ENE of my house.

The high temperature (°F) is daytime for the indicated date; the low temperature (°F) is for the previous night.

Winter chill is the cumulative hours of temperatures at or below 45°F from 1 November through 31 March. It is reported during that period and through April.

The relative humidity is at noon. (In my garden, it is likely higher than reported, a result of regular irrigation.)

Wind speeds (mph) are average (not peak) low and high, midnight to midnight (subject to later correction for diary entries posted before the end of the day). I also indicate peak wind gusts parenthetically when they are significantly high.

Rain is in inches. Season is the cumulative amount of rainfall from 1 October until 30 September of the following year. Week is the cumulative amount of measurable rainfall from noon seven days ago until noon of the indicated date. If no rain fell in that period, Days since last is reported.

Characterization of the weather (e.g., Clear, sunny, and warm) is purely subjective; for example, "warm" might occur with higher temperatures than "hot" if the former occurs with lower humidity and more breezes than the latter. Also, a day that would normally be characterized as "mild" might instead be "warm" if the immediately previous days were quite cold. Finally, such characterization reflects when I was actually outside and gardening and ignores changes that occur while I am inside.

The signature line I use when writing messages about my garden includes the following:

Climate: California Mediterranean
Sunset Zone: 21 -- interior Santa Monica Mountains with some ocean influence (USDA 10a, very close to Sunset Zone 19)
See also My Climate.
May-June 2015
March-April 2015
January-February 2015
November-December 2014
September-October 2014
July-August 2014
May-June 2014
March-April 2014
January-February 2014
November-December 2013
September-October 2013
July-August 2013
May-June 2013
March-April 2013
January-February 2013

Diary entries for 2004 through 2012


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